Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Bread Bites

The other day I was trying to come up with an appetizer for my monthly bunco night. I was craving a spinach artichoke dip ... the yummy, cheesy kind that I tend to eat all too much of whenever it's placed in front of me! Hmmm ... maybe if I could find a way to make a bite size version, I would not eat the entire bowl.

Now don't get me wrong, this recipe is in no way dietetic or healthy, but at least there's a little portion control involved. Anyway, I decided to take my grandmother's famous cheesy bread recipe, throw in some chopped spinach and artichoke, top it on sliced baguette pieces, and broil it for a few minutes. The result, ahhhhmazing!!! Unfortunately, I still ate more than my share. But I was thrilled to come up with a simple, crowd pleasing recipe! This is the perfect recipe for friends over for football, a holiday party, or just because you too are craving some spinach artichoke dip :)

By the way, you can make the spread ahead of time (up to 48 hours) and spread it on the bread right before you are ready to broil it. This really is an all around fabulous recipe!

Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Bread Bites
A Simple Spice Original, inspired by Grandma Caroline

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1 baguette, sliced on a bias

In a medium sized bowl, mix together mayonnaise, Parmesan, spinach, and artichoke until combined. Spread a generous dollop of the mixture evenly over each slice of bread. Place bread slices on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler (on high) for 3-5 minutes. Be sure to watch it closely as it broils, because it can burn quickly. Remove from the broiler as soon the cheese mixture becomes golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Green Monster Smoothies

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post for this breaking news: My son had three helpings of spinach for breakfast! That's right, spinach!

Lately, I've run across several recipes for "Green Monster Smoothies". I never book marked any of the recipes, but I had the basic idea down. Find your favorite frozen yellow colored fruit, add in some yogurt (I used Greek yogurt for extra protein) and toss in some spinach.

Both my boys love smoothies, but I usually stick to the basic berry and yogurt combination. But being that green is my oldest son's FAVORITE color, how could he resist the Green Monster! Well knowing my little guy, if he knew there was spinach in it he might not drink it. So I asked my husband to distract the boys, while I got to concocting. When it was ready, my son's smile was priceless! Three helpings later he finally asked how I got it so green, I simply answered, mommy's secret monster ingredient :)

Green Monster Smoothie

1 cup frozen mango
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 banana, sliced
2 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
3/4 cup orange juice, almond milk or soy milk (I actually used a banana, orange, pineapple juice)

Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend on high or the liquefy speed, until all of the ingredients are blended together smoothly, and the spinach is no longer visible. You may need to add a little more liquid or yogurt to get the consistency you want. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monkey Bread Muffins

Guess what? Tomorrow is the first day of fall! Which means it's my most favorite time of the year to cook! What's not to love about warm soup, crisp apples and of course all the delicious baked yumminess that comes with fall!

These Monkey Bread Muffins would be the perfect thing to pop in the oven on cool fall morning, or any other morning for that matter. I actually made them a few weeks ago and the entire family went nuts! Better yet, if you have any leftovers (which is doubtful) you can store them in a ziplock bag. When you're ready to eat the rest, just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds and they'll taste like they just came out of the oven.

So break out your spiced scented candles and get cooking! Happy Fall!

Monkey Bread Muffins
Adapted from Goddess of Baking


1 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 (16 ounce) Can Refrigerated Biscuit Dough, 8 big biscuits
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Butter, Unsalted
1 Teaspoons Water
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 375.

Grease muffin cups of a standard muffin pan or fill with paper liners.

Mix the white sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut each biscuit into quarters. Roll each piece in the cinnamon sugar and place three in each muffin cup. I pressed mine together, just slightly. Continue until all 10 cups are full. Scatter the remaining dough pieces in the muffin pans. You will not have the same number of biscuit pieces in each muffin.

In a saucepan, melt the brown sugar, butter and water until bubbly. Add the vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Make sure the sugar has melted and the consistency is smooth.

Spoon the brown sugar sauce over each muffin cup. I put about 1 teaspoon of sauce on each muffin. I reserved a small amount of this sauce to drizzle over the muffins when they came out of the oven.

Bake for 10 to 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before taking out of muffin pan. They will stay together better this way.

Spoon more sauce on the muffins while still hot.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Crock Pot Italian Chicken

I know this recipe isn't breaking news. In fact I've seen it for years in magazines, cook books, and more recently on blogs. But I've never actually made it. To be honest the ingredients didn't really appeal to me. As I've mentioned before, I love crock pot cooking, but I really try not to use too many "cream of whatever" or processed ingredients. But, with so many great organic options on the market I decided to make a slightly healthier version. I found an organic cream of chicken soup and an organic dry Italian dressing packet at our local Sprouts Grocery Store for about what I'd pay for the regular options. Obviously, the regular options are fine to use too, but if you can get your hands on these products (pictured below) or something similar, I highly recommend it. Also, when crock pot cooking, I always try to throw in a few extra fresh ingredients. So with this one, I added fresh mushrooms, and topped it with fresh Italian parsley and fresh toasted breadcrumbs. Honestly, I think those ingredients made all the difference. All in all, I get why this recipe has stood the test of time. It's easy, family friendly, and with a few tweaks, fairly healthy.

Crock Pot Italian Chicken

Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

4 chicken breasts
1 packet dry Italian dressing
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (light can be substituted)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Serve with pasta or rice (I prefer whole wheat pasta)


Place the chicken in a crockpot and sprinkle Italian dressing over it. Combine cream cheese and cream of chicken soup in a small pot over low heat and pour over chicken. Add in mushrooms. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. You can leave it in there all day. Once chicken is done you can leave the chicken breasts whole, cube it, or even shred it. Mine naturally shredded as I mixed it before serving.

Just before serving, melt butter in a saute pan. Add breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown.

Serve chicken over pasta or rice (I used whole wheat pasta). Top with breadcrumbs and Italian parsley.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baked Creamy Chicken Flautas

Let me start by saying I was skeptical when I first saw this recipe. When you are born and raised in Southern California, you know good Mexican food. And quite honestly I don't really like to stray from the classic recipes when it comes to Mexican staples like flautas. Okay, let's be honest, I'm usually not the one doing the cooking, I usually call up my favorite little restaurant, Las Barcas and let them make it for me! But when I saw this simple and somewhat healthier version, I thought I'd give it a whirl and I am so glad I did!

This is a perfect recipe for busy week nights. The flautas are quick to assemble and pop in the oven. Better yet, you can prep ahead of time and bake right before you are ready to eat. I made them for both my family and my parents (all of us Mexican food lovers) and everyone devoured them. Served with some black beans and fruit you have a perfect, family friendly meal. But, I think they would also be great as an appetizer, if you cut them up into smaller bite size pieces.

The original recipe called for corn tortillas (making them taquitos), but I thought flour would crisp up in the oven better. Either way, this recipe is definitely a keeper for my busy night menus.

Baked Creamy Chicken Flautas

Adapted from Our Best Bites

3 ounces cream cheese, softened (I popped mine in the microwave for about 30 seconds)
1/4 cup green salsa
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice from half a lime)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp sliced green onions
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese (pepper jack if you want a spicier version)
small flour or corn tortillas
kosher salt
cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 425˚F.

Mix together the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, ground cumin, chili powder, onion powder and garlic in a large bowl. Once combined, stir in the cilantro and green onions. Add the chicken and cheese; mix thoroughly.

Working with a few tortillas at a time, heat them in the microwave between two damp paper towels until they are soft enough to roll (about 15-20 seconds worked for me).

Spoon 2-3 Tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto the lower third of a tortilla. Roll the tortilla as tightly as you can.

Place the rolled tortilla seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas until the mixture is gone. Make sure the flautas are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back To School "Cowboy" Cookies

I know a lot of kids went back to school a few weeks ago, but in our neck of the woods most schools start back tomorrow. My little guy actually has one more week left until preschool starts back up, but with so many friends beginning their first day of kindergarten, I wanted to share this perfect back to school sweet treat!

Unlike a lot of oatmeal cookie recipes that I've tried, these are moist, dense, chewy and delicious. Not to mention, they also work great as "mommy therapy" for those of you who tend to be a little weepy on the first day of school (myself included)! Good luck mamas, your babies will be just fine :)

Cowboy Cookies
Adapted from

1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl combine all of the dry ingredients, be sure to include the chocolate chips. In a separate bowl, mix together melted butter, egg and vanilla. Add mixture to the dry ingredients and mix together. You may need to use your hands to finish mixing. Shape into walnut sized balls. Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven. Transfer from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blueberry Peach Cobbler

I have a confession. I am married to a Southerner. I lived in the South for several years. I love Southern cooking. But up until a few days ago. I had NEVER made a cobbler! Shhhh, don't tell my in-laws, they may throw me out of the family (oops. I think they follow this blog)!

Okay, now that I have shared my deep dark cooking secret, I can continue with this post. My new favorite dessert recipe: Blueberry Peach Cobbler!

A dear friend recently brought me a beautiful basket of fresh peaches from the heart of California's peach country. Thrilled with my farm fresh produce, I knew I had to make something good. And this recipe did not disappoint. It was very simple to put together, and my family was in heaven when I took it out of the oven. And maybe, just maybe, my in-laws will keep me in the family!

PS: My husband still had our "good" camera at work, so please excuse the poorly lit, iPhone shot ;)

Blueberry Peach Cobbler
Adapted from Mother Thyme


2 cups blueberries
3 cups soft ripe peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut in to small cubes
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl add fruit and lemon juice. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and combine well. Add fruit in to greased 9" pie dish.

In a food processor, add flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 cup sugar and pulse for 5 to 10 seconds until flour is mixed. Add in butter and pulse for an additional 10 seconds until mixture is coarse. Pour flour mixture into a separate bowl and stir in by hand egg and vanilla.

Add spoonfuls of dough on top of fruit. Do not spread.

Put pie dish on top of cookie sheet and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summertime Grilled Corn

If there is one ingredient that defines summer for my family, it's corn. From the first memorial day day pool party to the last labor day barbecue, if we are grilling, we are usually making grilled corn. And by we, I really mean my wonderful husband. A few summers back, he happened to be watching Tyler Florence make grilled corn. He never wrote down the recipe, but quickly put his own twist on the method. I know grilled corn isn't a new technique, but for whatever reason this particular preparation always draws rave reviews. It doesn't require wrapping the corn in foil, or leaving a portion husk on. It's quick, simple and down right delicious. And with just a few weeks left in the summer, I suggest you try this recipe at your very next BBQ!

Summertime Grilled Corn
Inspired by Tyler Florence, created by my wonderful husband

4-6 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon, chili powder
1/8 teaspoon season salt
fresh cracked pepper

Prepare grill to medium heat.

Clean and shuck the corn. Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl. Add all of the spices to the melted butter, mixing well to combine all of the spices. With a basting brush, lightly coat each ear of corn. Reserve the extra butter mixture. Place the corn directly on the grill, turning often to evenly grill the corn. Continue to baste the corn as it grills. Grill until all sides of the corn are slightly charred and golden, approximately 7-10 minutes. Remove from grill and serve immediately.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Tale of Two Sangrias

So, I know the whole the point to my blog is to inspire both myself and others to get creative in the kitchen, so we can make wonderful meals for our adoring families. And don't get me wrong, that is the point to this blog, but sometimes this mama just needs a cocktail! And some weeks this mama needs two different versions of a cocktail! Okay, now I am starting to sound like I have a problem, but in reality we just had a very busy weekend filled with fun, friends, and sangria!

You see, it all started earlier last week. I found the prefect Sangria recipe to serve for two different get togethers. Off to Trader Joe's I went with my list of ingredients. When the nice wine guy at the store asked if I needed some help, I asked if he could recommend a good rose for my sangria recipe. He gasped and adamantly said he only makes Sangria one way. Always open to a good recommendation, I took down his recipe, and bought the ingredients.

The next day, my dear friend Stephanie came into town all the way from New York. We chatted and sipped sangria out on the patio. It was a perfectly lovely afternoon, and we both and agreed the recipe was a keeper. But part of me still wondered about my first recipe. So back to Trader Joe's I went, got the additional ingredients needed, and made the second sangria recipe for a BBQ we hosted over the weekend. And what do you know, it was another keeper! Long story short, both recipes were so good, I just had to post two! So take your pick or make both. Just be sure to serve it with good friends and prepare for a thoroughly good time.
Side note, please excuse the last minute photography ;)

Sangria Two Ways:

Sparkling Red Wine Sangria
Recipe courtesy of the Trader Joe's Wine Guy

1 cup strawberries, quartered and hulled
1 cup raspberries, whole
1 nectarine, sliced
1 orange sliced
1 cup triple sec
1 bottle sparkling red wine
1 cup apple juice

Cut and slice the fruit and place in large bowl. Pour the triple sec over the fruit. Mix the fruit well, pressing it down in the bowl so it is mostly covered by the alcohol. Soak for several hours, or even over night (I soaked mine overnight). When ready to serve, transfer the fruit and triple sec to a serving pitcher. Add the sparkling red wine and apple juice. Serve over ice and garnish with desired fruit.

Sangria with Rose Wine
Adapted from The Cilantropist

1 orange, sliced
2 nectarines, sliced
1 apple, sliced and quartered (I used a pink lady apple)
1 cup strawberries, quartered and hulled
1 cup raspberries, whole
1 cup pineapple, chopped (I used frozen)
3/4 cup triple sec
1/4 cup citrus vodka (I used Absolut Mandarin)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups ginger ale

Cut and slice all of the fruit. Place all the fruit in a large bowl, and add the sugar, triple sec, and vodka. Mix the fruit well, pressing it down in the bowl so it is mostly covered by the sugar/alcohol mixture. Soak the fruit, mixing occasionally, for at least 1 hour, but I prefer to soak mine for several hours or even over night. When ready to serve, transfer the fruit and triple sec to a serving pitcher. Add the rose wine and ginger ale. Serve over ice and garnish with desired fruit.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grilled Pork with Blueberry Barbecue Sauce

If there is one fruit that my kids are obsessed with, it's blueberries. So when I came across this recipe, I knew that I had to give it a try. The original recipe called for salmon, which I think would have been delicious, but I happened to have thin cut pork chops on hand, so I gave it a try. The combination, of sweet and savory was amazing, and even my "I don't like sauce" child gave it a try and liked it! My only complaint with the recipe is that it really didn't make enough ... If I was making it for 4 adults, I think I would double the recipe. But maybe that's just me ... I always like to have a little more than not enough. All in all, this recipe was simple to make and definitely added some unexpected flavor to my rather boring pork chops!

Grilled Pork with Blueberry Barbecue Sauce
adapted from Pink Parsley


4 thin cut pork chops (any cut will do)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
1/3 cup ketchup
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbs grated onion
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch red pepper flakes

Prepare grill to medium-high heat, and let heat.

Season pork with salt and pepper to your liking.

In a medium saucepan, heat the blueberries over medium-low heat until they begin to soften and burst, about 10 minutes. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mash them, then add the ketchup, vinegars, brown sugar, garlic, onion, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and red pepper flakes.

Whisk well to combine and break up the blueberries, then increase heat to medium. Stirring often, cook until the mixture begins to bubble, then lower the heat to medium low. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, another 10-20 minutes. The sauce will be thicker and clumpier than traditional bbq sauce.

While sauce thickens, grill pork chops. If using a thin cut chop, it should take 3-4 minutes per side. Thin chops should be grilled hot and fast. Thicker cuts will take a little longer and should be grilled at a slightly lower temperature.

Remove from grill, top with sauce, and serve.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Simple Spice is Back! Let's Start Simple ...

I am embarrassed to even admit this, but it has been a more than a year since I last posted. To be fair, we did undergo a major home renovation at the end of last summer, and I guess I just got out of the habit of blogging. It's not like we haven't been cooking. In fact, I have been cooking up a storm in our beautiful new kitchen. I think I just put too much pressure on myself to have a perfect plate put together before I grab my camera and photograph it. So let's get one thing out there, moving forward, some days I may have a great shot of my latest creation and other days I may just grab the iPhone and take a quick shot before my ravenous family digs into our meal. I really do miss my blog, and I hope you will reconnect with me as I share what's been cooking :)

To start things off, I wanted to share this amazingly simple appetizer I threw together for my bunco group last month. It's perfect for summer entertaining because it requires absolutely no cooking and uses some of the best ingredients summer has to offer in southern California, fresh strawberries and basil!

Summer Strawberry Bruchetta
Adapted from Annie's Eats


1 cup strawberries,diced

1 tbsp. sugar

1 french baguette sliced on a bias

4 oz. goat cheese 

¼ cup minced basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar


Combine the strawberries and sugar in a small bowl; toss to combine. Let the berries macerate for about 30 minutes so that they begin to release their juices. Spread a thin layer of goat cheese on top of each baguette slice. Top each slice with spoonfuls of the strawberry mixture. Top each slice with the basil leaves. Just before serving, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with pepper.
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